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By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.

Elsewhere on this website Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) have been identified as the primary source of energy for meeting mankind's future energy needs. This web page focuses on issues related to the sodium used for FNR primary cooling and secondary heat transport.

The sodium used as a FNR primary coolant needs to be free of contamination by carbon, calcium, chlorine and nickel. To the extent that these elements are present in the primary sodium over time they will absorb neutrons and become the radio isotopes C-14, Cl-36, Ca-41 and Ni-59 all of which have long half lives and hence are disposal problems. The best strategy is to minimize the C, Cl, Ca and Ni content in the liquid sodium before the reactor is turned on and to the expent possible to further remove these contaminats over time via a side arm filter system.

The cost of reactor grade sodium may be as much as $10.00 per kg. Thus 4600 tonnes of reactor grade sodium could cost as much as $46 million before shipping and handling costs.

There should be nearby liquid sodium storage of sufficient capacity to hold all the primary liquid sodium so as to permit major maintenance/repairs to the FNR primary liquid sodium tank. There must be a means of easily transferring heat emitting fuel bundles from the main liquid sodium tank to a spare liquid sodium tank and vice versa.

The sodium might be delivered to the site as a solid in 55 US gallon steel drums with removeable covers. Assuming a total sodium requirement of:
Pi (10 m)^2 (15 m) = 4712.4 m^3
the required number of drums is:
[4712.4 m^3 X (1 US gal / .0037854 m^3)] / [55 US gal / drum] = 22,634 drums

These drums should be stored on pallets in groups separated by aisles that act as fire breaks and provide access for fire suppression. A safe drum pallet size is 30 inches X 30 inches. Hence exclusive of aisles the space requirement is:
(30 inches X 30 inches) / drum X (.0254 m / inch)^2 X 22,634 drums = 13,143 m^2

Allowing for aisle area equal to 3 X storage area implies a requirement for 52,569 m^2 = 0.0525 km^2 for single layer sodium drum storage.

The drums will likely arrive by rail. Hence the reactor site may need a dedicated rail siding.

The plan is to remelt the primary sodium by supplying heat to it from one or more of the intermediate sodium loops. These heat supply loops must be fitted with electric or fossil fuelled heaters.

This web page last updated October 20, 2019.

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